Jessica Valenti interviews author Rebecca Traister about how she uncovered rich accounts of social progress intertwining with changing marriage patterns – and single women were at the front and center of change

Rebecca Traister, author and writer at large for New York magazine, is one of the foremost feminist writers in the country. Her 2008 book, Big Girls Don’t Cry took an in-depth look at Hillary Clinton’s last presidential run and how it marked a watershed moment in feminism. Her new book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, was released this week. She took some time out from her book tour to talk with the Guardian.

Jessica: You wove some of your own personal story of single (and married) life throughout this book – tell me a little bit about how the idea for this book came about and how your own story influenced you.

Growing up, society put so much emphasis on size, looks, and perfection. Young people today gain so much false self-esteem by being praised for shallow compliments based on looks and attractiveness. Does this do anything for their soul? Does it help self-value, -worth and -confidence? I believe the answer is no. Some of the most attractive people I have ever come across in my life, actually have the lowest self-esteem. There is a missing link here, that society tends to over-look.

I personally, have always considered myself attractive, I have always loved my body, but I could always be better, I could always look a little more perfect. I never felt satisfied, and continued to be hard on myself. I still struggle with perfectionism, but I have taken control of many areas of my life, and one is knowing my self-worth and value and never letting a man define that for me.

At the age of 30, I broke a pattern. This pattern was letting men into my life who were simply not good for me. I became picky for the first time, and didn’t just jump at male attention. I am currently dating a good amount, and even when I feel a connection, get excited, go on a few dates, and it turns out that it just isn’t going to work out? Well, I simply say, “on to the next!” And there is always a next. The truth of the matter is, when you value yourself, your worth and your time, you simply stop having time for people who aren’t a perfect match, or for anyone who treats you any less than you deserve. To create this shift in my life, and to not let anyone, especially a man, determine my self-worth and happiness, it is the most brilliant gift I have ever received. It takes time to get there, it takes practice and tools, but I tell you, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, you can get there. Could you imagine life if you decided to never let another person determine your happiness or self-worth? What if you had full control over it, no matter what life brings? This my friends, is enlightenment, and it is strong. Once it is learned, it cannot be undone. Sure, I still have moments of weakness, but these moments only last a few minutes, a few hours at most. But soon after, they shift into brilliant lessons, courage and strength to move forward, and to keep the focus on me. When you find your inner wisdom and power, you will literally glow from the inside out. You will be more attractive to everyone, and have a certain aura and light about you. People can feel your energy, and how you feel about yourself on the inside, is what people pick up on.

If you don’t know where to begin, start here: Value and accept rejection. It is such a valuable part of the process, and a blessing, if you let it be. Rejection, on their end, or on yours, is honestly just not a perfect match of two souls. Nothing more, nothing less. I challenge you, to re-define your own meaning of rejection, and what it truly means to you. Give it a purpose, give it value, and you will never let the dissapointment be greater than the lesson.

Most of my friends have now settled down, found ‘the one’ and have started lives with a partner by their side. I have never taken the tradition role in life. I enjoy pushing boundaries, and taking the road less traveled. I suppose this makes sense as to why I have not yet settled down with one person. The facts are that men come in and out of my life. Some that seem so perfect on paper, that make me feel good, but still, something feels off. Sure, I could have settled down with someone by now, but my biggest fear is settling. I am waiting for my best friend. The person who is capable of pushing me to be a better person, just as I hope to do the same for them. The person who has taken time to work on themselves, and not settle for anything less than an amazing life and happily ever after. No matter what age you are, if you have not yet found your life partner, do not get frustrated. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. After all, the happiest couples that I have come across, met later in life, when they were fully developed into the person they wanted to become. They conquered the world, solo. From that, they learned valuable lessons, that changed them, because they accepted and embraced being vulnerable and alone. The most engligtened people in this world, have seen some of the darkest times. So, always look towards the light, and know that you deserve the most amazing love, partner, and your happily ever after. The opportunity will come, when the timing is right. Please, let go, trust the process, settle down and have some fun along the way!

Our society today has hit an ultimate shallow peak, and confidence and self-esteem in young women are suffering as a result. We are starting to see a break in patterns with new movements such as ‘strong is the new skinny.’ So ladies and gentleman, there is hope. But as a community, we need to lift ourselves up, before we can offer this help and guidance to others. Join the movement, and spread hope. Especially to the young society today, they need it most